Ponder This. In 1995 Orchard Books published a powerful book about greeting, about eating, about take out, about fake out and about waiting for the pizza man too. Hi Pizza Man deserves a come back. We simply need more Pizza Mans by the talented kid-knowledgeable Virginia Walter and talented Ponder Goembel on the shelves again. I would stand in line at the local indie store for this one.
The cover is sheer delight. How can you not want to own this book with a pizza box being held by a dinosaur’s foot, a snake’s tail, a cat’s paw…you get the picture. And they are outside a conventional door about to deliver dinner! Love this! Vivian is playing with trains when she calls, “Mama!” (page turn, of course!) “I’m hungry!” Walter has every reader/listener’s attention from the start. Truly special are the fun and fanciful illustrations in this exceptional book. The snake dons a derby hat and three bow ties. The duck wears a turban and gold jewelry including an ankle bracelet. The pizza woman is in a baseball cap but she wears a fur stole and pearls. The children that I work with are always enchanted by the dog balancing the pizza box on his nose in a vest with embroidered trim, paws on his hips with attitude. “WOOF WOOF, PIZZA DOG!” Vivian is entertained by the cast of imaginary characters coming to her door through a word game with her mother. “What if it’s a pizza dinosaur? Then what will you say?” “ROAR, PIZZA DINOSAUR!” Years ago when saying goodbye to a family I had worked with a gift came out of mom’s bag for me. The shape was a dead giveaway. Books are such a part of every session that this could have been any recently published picture book. It wasn’t just any book though and it was no longer being published. OMG. It’s Hi Pizza Man. Where did you find this? Mom had spent time tracking it down for me on eBay. She sat needlessly apologizing for its condition. I hope I told her it was just perfect because it was and it still is. It is stamped Ames Public Library, Ames, Iowa. I treasure this out of print prize.
Recent research in the area of speech and language development focusses on the importance of pragmatics. Language use or social language matters. We need to be able to help early communicators direct what they say to the people in their lives. For very young children this has to do with fundamentals like making eye contact, using language to request, to inform, and to greet one another. Hi Pizza Man has it all. Vivian and her mother are fully engaged in a make-believe game that provides pragmatic practice in a safe, loving, comfortable environment, stomach grumblings aside. It’s magic on the page. It leads by example. It’s refreshing to share with families even if it is an ‘old’ picture book. It’s timeless and it’s cutting edge at the same time.
So please, publishers, find a way to reprint more Hi Pizza Mans. Until then comb yard sales and used book sales. Then order a pizza and sit down with a child or two for a great read.